While it is an interesting question to ask what Bible Jesus read, it is a beautiful thing to see how we are able to read Jesus on every page. From the Old Covenant to the New, Jesus looms large. God’s comfort in the light of the curse was the promise of a child who would one day defeat the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Flash forward to Jesus’s baptism, where He immediately goes out into the wilderness to be tempted by the serpent. Jesus is the critical piece of the story tying it all together.
Have you ever wondered what Bible Jesus used? Was Jesus’s Bible, the Jewish Scriptures, different from the Old Testament we use today? If so, how?
These are all questions I ask my students to think about in my theology class at Cedarville University. The short answer is, “Yes.” It was different. The longer answer is, “No, not really.” Jesus’s Bible would have had the same content as our Old Testament, it was just organized differently.
Here’s a difference: Jesus’s Bible only contained 24 books compared to the 39 found in the Old Testament in our English translations. Where did the other books go, you ask. Fair question. They’re still there, I promise. It’s just the Bible Jesus would have used combined certain books. For example, all twelve of the minor prophets are packed into one book, not so creatively called “The Book of the Twelve.” And all the sequels are compacted into one (think 1st and 2nd Kings).
The Jewish Scriptures are often referred to as the Tanakh, a Hebrew abbreviation for the three organizational categories of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Torah includes the five books written by Moses, also called the Pentateuch, which, not so creatively, means five books. You can find a helpful comparison of the Tanakh and the Old Testament ordering of these books here.
Early in the history of Christianity, the current ordering of the Old Testament — as it appears in our English translations — was affirmed at a council at the end of the fourth century.